A visual tour of some of the world’s major metropolises, as seen through the eyes of fourteen different photographers: such is the promise offered by Louis Vuitton Éditions with their new work entitled Cities of the World. Paris, Shanghai, New York, Tokyo, Rome, Amsterdam, Istanbul… Thirty cities that members of the Tendance Floue collective roamed for eight years. Created in 1991, the collective’s mission is “to explore the world in a way that goes against the trend of globalized images, looking in the shadows of the subjects on display and capturing unique moments.”
Initiated by the famous name brand for its collection of City Guide luxury travel guides, this coffee table book brings together 225 images taken from an archive of more than 4,000 photographs. “Much like dreams, cities are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules absurd, their perspectives deceptive; and everything hides something else,” Italo Calvino once wrote. His quote is used as an epigraph in the book, and what it describes is precisely what is at work here. The photographers seek out deceptive perspectives, focusing on aspects of the city that surprise them, astonish them and stimulate their imagination.
Stolen moments, unusual moments, or situations sometimes close to caricature, taken in the streets of Mexico City or in the Tokyo metro, are displayed across wider, less intimate city views, such as the shot of the towers of Shanghai in black and white that causes one to pause and reflect, or the famous colors of New York at night. These long, meandering journeys show the cities of the 21st century in all their beauty and absurdity, and the book helps readers immerse themselves in them. The book is made of different types of paper and textures that best accentuate the rendering of the various images presented to us as part of different themes entitled Travelogue, Work, Black, Limits, Color, Power, White, Style, and Out.
In his introduction, the writer and exhibition curator David Chandler underlines how the city allows everyone to reinvent themselves, to become a new character, to take on a new identity, to even test their physical limits through extravagant outfits or expressions. A territory in perpetual motion, the city is free and freeing, and it is this feeling of infinity, of endless possibilities, that one feels when leafing through this book –or, should we say, when traveling. The photographers invite us to see without passing judgment, providing no answers other than that of a thirst for discovery, showing us that which stands out and is different, but mainly that which brings people together.
By Sabyl Ghoussoub
Born in Paris in 1988 into a Lebanese family, Sabyl Ghoussoub is a writer, columnist and curator. His second novel, Beyrouth entre parenthèses [Beirut in Parentheses] was released by Antilope editions in August 2020.